Government bodies often have mechanisms that allow journalists and members of the public to request data and documents. Below are some resources to help you understand the public records laws where you live and draft successful records requests.
The National Freedom of Information Coalition is a US nonprofit organization that has a guide to international freedom of information (FOI) laws on its website along with information on state laws.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Open Government Guide (updated 2019) breaks down US state freedom of information laws into standardized sections that cover who can file FOI requests, what is considered public record, and appeals processes, among other topics. This includes information about accessing data and electronic records.
Society of Professional Journalists FOI for Pros lays out the process of filing a FOI request in the US, from understanding relevant law to wording requests and handling denials.